In the picturesque Italian region of Tuscany is one of the world’s most famous landmarks – the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Besides it, the town of the same name boasts a variety of interesting places… Let’s go there, huh?
Where is located and how to get there
The city is located in the western part of Tuscany, very close to the coast. Only 20 km away is the beautiful Lucca, and Florence is around 80 km away. Thanks to low-cost airlines traveling to the local Airport Galileo Galilei, Pisa is often the starting point for a sightseeing tour of the area.
Crowds of organized tourists usually arrive for a few hours to visit and descend right at the gates to the Square of Wonders (Campo dei Miracoli). The train station is the other hub that can be used for transport to Pisa.
We arrived by direct flight from Sofia and used Pisa to start our trip around Liguria (Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso and Portofino) and Tuscany. We landed late, and the next day we had a train to La Spezia at 12:05, so it was most convenient for us to stay around the train station. And from the airport to get there is extremely easy with Pisa Mover – an overground subway, which the municipality has built for fast transport. The ticket cost 2.70 euro a few years ago, but its price is now almost double – 5 euro!
In the southern part of Pisa
After the late arrival we did not have any strength to wander the streets of Pisa, but this gave us the opportunity for getting up early and a morning walk, hoping to reach the main attractions before the tourist buses… We spent the night right next to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – a nice place with several cafes.
The city is relatively small and walking is extremely easy and convenient. Corso Italia, the best shopping street in Pisa, takes us to the Arno River… Many Italian boutiques alternate with world-famous brands such as Zara, H&M and many others. Fortunately for me, they were closed in the early hours and we were able to enjoy the deserted street with the shutters down…
Conquered by the atypical silence for this part of the city, we imperceptibly reach the river. Arno crosses and the other big city in Tuscany – Florence. The Ponte di Mezzo bridge is the perfect place to cross to the opposite shore! It offers great views of the colorful buildings along the coast and two remarkable facades can be seen, those of the Palazzo Gambacorti and Palazzo Agostini. Except them, most of the buildings are predominantly modern, due to the severe consequences of the bombing of the city during World War II.
To the city center
100 meters from the bridge is positioned a small and nestled among the buildings church – Chiesa di San Michele in Borgo. As hidden as it is, its beautiful facade attracts the attention of passers-by and does not go unnoticed… It was built at the end of the 10th century, and the upper part consists of three rows of typical Pisan Gothic loggias.
We are already at the beginning of the most elegant part of Pisa – Borgo Stretto. Plenty of arches litter the sidewalks of the street, and under them are hidden expensive boutiques, interesting bars and various small shops. Here is the birthplace of Galileo Galilei, just above Caffè Settimelli.
A little more from Pisa
To The leaning tower can be reached by walking straight down the street, but deviating slightly to the side you can enjoy a few more not so popular places. The first stop is the small Piazza delle Vettovaglie, where an impromptu fruit and vegetable market is often held.
We take Via Domenico Cavalca to pass the medieval tower in the heart of Pisa – Torre Del Campano. Unfortunately it is not open for visits and we can’t go upstairs, but it’s worth going past her… Impressive are the many square holes on the facade, which are left over from the wooden scaffolding used for its construction. Right against her, we are fascinated by a terrace immersed in greenery…
Our next stop is the shady Piazza Dante Alighieri. Located just behind the universities, the square is a favorite place for Pisa students. For this reason around him it is full of cafes and restaurants! And a few large trees and beautiful palm trees make it a favorite place in the summer heat. Let me just add that Pisa was formed as a quiet academic town in the early 15th century, and the university here was founded in the distant 1343, also its graduate is Galileo Galilei himself!
We make a slight turn and quickly pass the University Church of San Frediano, which is home to many religious movements.
We reach Knight’s Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri)
We didn’t see any knights here… But we enjoyed one of the most beautiful squares in Pisa – Piazza dei Cavalieri. This was the political center of the city in the Middle Ages. Just to warn you, be careful with cars, they appear from everywhere! There are no markings on the square itself…
The unique facade of Palazzo della Carovana first attracts attention! The former palace was built in the 16th century as the seat of the Knights of St. Stephen… This is the reason why the square is known as “Knight’s Square”. Today, the former palace is home to the Scuola Normale Superiore, founded by Napoleon.
Traces of the knights can be seen to this day, the most distinctive being the red Maltese cross, adorning the facade of the church dedicated to St. Stephen in the square – Chiesa Nazionale di Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri.
To the Square of Wonders
We turn onto Via Ulisse Dini, which takes us back to almost the same place where we left Borgo Stretto. We will enjoy until the end of the attractive street. There is no way to not I photograph one of the typical facades with the favorite green shutters on the windows… From such a photo you can feel the incomparable spirit of Italy…
At the very end, the street makes a 90-degree left turn to reveal the most impressive place in Pisa – the Piazza dei Miracoli! Here is my favorite view of the leaning tower… Yeah, it’s not in front of the most touristy places, but right here… under the balconies of the locals, seeing the tower mysteriously in the distance…
The Square of Wonders – Piazza dei Miracoli
We find ourselves at the back of the square, behind the Cathedral. This is a place where there aren’t huge crowds of tourists and you can take pictures against the background of the tower without waiting in line. But the view isn’t as awesome as in front. Right here is the ticket center, where the passes for the sites are taken. More information about the different combinations of visits, prices and opening hours can be found HERE. If you want to climb the tower, it is mandatory to make a reservation in advance!
Apart from the most impressive sights (the cathedral and the tower), the square next to the fortress wall can enchant with several other monuments. The Lupa capitolina column (the wolf of Rome), the statue of the fallen angel Angelo Caduto and the Fontana dei Putti fountain are part of them.
The last monument built on the square is the Camposanto Cemetery. An entrance ticket is required to enter behind its walls. The bombing did not miss the most emblematic place of Pisa, namely this square and Camposanto fell victim to a huge fire as a result of a bomb dropped in 1944. It destroys most of the beautiful murals… Today the place has been restored and receives visitors, but we decided to miss entering it.
The Baptistery of St. John
The whole complex is built on unstable soils and the Baptistery also has a slight slope, which is almost imperceptible, less than a degree! Its construction began in 1153 and lasted for 200 years, which remains a slight imprint on the external elements, where there is a transition from Romanesque to Gothic style. Impressive is the identical elements used in The Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Tower. The three monuments are very similar in facades. I checked in advance that the inside isn’t so impressive (unlike the one in Florence) and decided not to enter.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
The Cathedral of the Assumption is the first building on the Square of Miracles! Construction of the Duomo began in 1064, more than 100 years before the Cathedral of Siena and just over 200 years before Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence! In appearance, the three cathedrals are very identical, and the one in Pisa is considered a model of the Pisa-Romanesque style in the cathedrals of central Italy. The beautiful columns in the facade, the multicolored marble on the cladding and the many decorative elements only hint at the beauty that is hidden behind its walls…
Most of the works inside date from the period between 1602 and 1616, when most of the cathedral was restored due to a devastating fire that caused extensive damage in 1595. Inside, photography is prohibited and the visit is carried out only up to a certain part of the space.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Here is… the emblem of the city and the most impressive landmark for tourists… the exquisite leaning Tower…! Crowds of visitors line up to take pictures on the lawn in front of the complex. There are various creative shots, how they support the tower, put it on an ice cream cone and many other similar…
The construction of the tower started in 1173, and due to the unstable soil layer, it began to sink after the construction of the first 3 levels. It takes about 100 years of thinking about how to continue construction, but nothing helps or changes the slope, on the contrary, it increases! Nearly 200 years after the start of construction, the upper bell tower was added, which was deliberately not centered in order to straighten the structure, but not very successfully.
An interesting fact is that Galileo Galilei used the slope of the tower to throw two lead balls from it and to prove his theory that bodies of the same material, but with different masses, fall at the same speed.
Over the years, various attempts have been made to correct the slope, but they have worsened the situation rather than improved it. The situation became so serious that in 1990 an international commission was convened to consider a solution to the problem. Thus, in 1998, a large-scale rescue operation began for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, worth about 25 million euros. For 3 years, huge steel ropes have been stretched around the tower, which, however, are not the main corrective method, but rather have surrounded the tower to prevent it from falling. The main operation consists in withdrawing underground masses from the northern part, which gives unique results and in just 5 months the tower regains its position from 110 years ago, adjusting the slope by as much as 12.5 cm! At the end of the process the result is remarkable – 43 cm!
Thanks to this ingenious move, today the tower is still in place and can be visited freely by millions of tourists a year…
For a final
A few hours of walking in Pisa is a good solution when visiting Tuscany! We managed to tour a large part of the city in the early hours of the day. We even had time for coffee and a croissant at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, although on the way back through Corso Italia the shops were open…